Asia - Pacific 100 2020 SAMPLE
The Asia-Pacific 100 report ranks the 100 largest independent firms in the Asia-Pacific region.
Asia-Pacific 100 2020
The Lawyer Market Reports
Overview- Independent firms
Asia-Pacific 100 2020
Growth areas and 2020 outlooks
In each year’s survey, we asked law firms to provide a breakdown of partner numbers by practice areas, based on data provided by law firms in the past two years, there has been a clear trend of growing disputes resolution practice. However, corporate remains the largest department for the Top 100 firms. Real estate is the only area that saw a small decrease in partner numbers.
China’s AllBright doubled the number of disputes partners last year, as it expanded nationally with three new offices in Changchun, Wuhan, and Ürümqi. Jingtian & Gongcheng, traditionally focused on transactional matters, has also built up its disputes capabilities. Number of partners in the firm’s disputes group increased by 71 per cent to 41. The practice was the second largest fee-generating group, accounting for 22.5 per cent of the firm’s total revenue. Australian firm Mills Oakley, Singapore’s Rajah & Tann, Thailand’s Tilleke & Gibbins, Indian firm Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas and Hong Kong’s Deacons are the other firms that added disputes partners in 2019. Japan’s Nishimura & Asahi, China’s JunHe, King & Capital and Beijing DHH are a few firms with a smaller group of disputes partners.
Almost all of the Top 100 firms handle cross-border matters, but JunHe, Rajah & Tann Asia, Shin & Kim, Tilleke & Gibbins and Trilegal are firms that said 50 per cent or more of the work they handled in 2019 was cross-border. For JunHe, 65 per cent of the firm’s revenue in 2019 was generated from acting on cross-border matters. US, UK and European are the top three jurisdictions for the firm’s international work. For Rajah & Tann, cross-border matters also accounted for half of the firm’s total mandates last year, with China, India and Japan being the most important jurisdictions outside of ASEAN. Thailand-based Tilleke & Gibbins has the highest percentage in terms of cross-border matters handled, at 85 per cent. Most of its international mandates and clients are from US, Japan and Singapore.
Looking at 2020 and beyond, despite disruptions by the Covid-19 outbreak, firms in Asia Pacific predict restructuring and insolvency and M&A as two main areas of growth. Around 24 per cent of the firms responded to this survey question said they expected to handle more restructuring and insolvency work in the region, while 18 per cent highlighted M&A as the source of opportunity. Employment and healthcare are the next two important emerging practices according to the poll results.
When asked about the mostly likely source of competition over the next three years, most respondents see the strongest competition coming from their current domestic competitors (91 per cent). International firms are perceived as the second mostly likely source of competition. In-house resources within client organisations are the third likely source of competition for the region’s large law firms. Although big four accountancy firms have been actively developing its legal services network in Asia Pacific, very few firms anticipated them as potential competitors over the next three years.
In 2019, a considerable percentage of the Top 100 firms have grown their national and global footprint. The appetite for expansion remains strong but the pace is likely to slow in 2020, partially due to the Covid-19 factors and the global economic headwinds.
Around 43 per cent of the respondents said they would expand geographically in the next 12 months; 40 per cent of the surveyed firms said no to office opening in the coming year, while 17 per cent said they were not sure yet. Among the firms with a plan to expand, the majority would set up their next office within the Asia Pacific, and 5 per cent would consider an office in Europe.
Overview- International firms
Asia-Pacific 100 2020
What the second half of 2020 might look like in terms of type of work following the impact of Covid-19?
As businesses start to move from ‘crisis’ to ‘recovery’ mode, we are seeing increased demand around issues such as supply chain logistics, capital raising, insolvency and restructuring, workplace law and cybersecurity and data protection. In some territories we are also seeing governments looking to maintain economic momentum by bringing forward infrastructure spend on roads, railways, schools and hospitals, etc.
While we don't expect to see the deals market recover until the end of the calendar year, we are seeing advisory work regarding US/China trade arrangements as an area of growth in the short to medium term.
Market Focus- Hong Kong
Asia-Pacific 100 2020
Hong Kong market overview
Among key jurisdictions covered by the Asia Pacific 100 report, Hong Kong had the most challenging time in 2019. The pro-democracy protests engulfed Asia's premier financial centre for the entire second half of the year. Hong Kong’s economy and businesses suffered another major blow at the beginning of this year due to the Covid-19 lockdown that started in February. A veteran market participant described the impact on law firms as “a tsunami after an earthquake”.
The consequences started to become obvious from March 2020. A few international firms, including Orrick and Osborne Clarke, decided to shut down their Hong Kong offices and retreat from the market. Vinson & Elkins announced plan to close its Beijing office and keep a partner-less Hong Kong base. A large number of international firms announced various cost-cutting plans, such as pay cuts or redundancies, to preserve cash flow and keep business afloat.
Mayer Brown’s Hong Kong office, for example, imposed a 15 per cent pay cut for salaried partners, counsel and solicitors and a salary reduction of up to 15 per cent for support staff, trainees and paralegals earning HK$20K or more per month. Stephenson Harwood, which closed its Beijing office, make around six partners and 20 associates redundant in its Hong Kong office following a strategic review. Several firms, such as Minter Ellison and Norton Rose Fulbright, introduced four-day week scheme with a reduction in salary of 20 per cent. Sidley Austin, which has a sizeable capital markets team in Hong Kong, and Proskauer Rose are some of the US firms that are known to have laid off fee-earners.
Among the independent firms, things were relatively calmer, although managing partners face the same pressure on finding growth in both bottom and top lines in 2020. Deacons remained the largest independent firm in Hong Kong and the only firm to represent the jurisdiction in the Top 100, although the number of lawyers saw an 11 per cent decline from 235 in 2018 to 208 last year. However, the firm’s partnership grew steadily, up 6 per cent from 51 to 54. The firm only made one lateral hire in 2019, recruiting trademark partner Benjamin Choi from Mayer Brown. It added three more to its partnership through internal promotions in January 2020, in the area of corporate finance and financial services.
Corporate is Deacons’ largest practice group with 28 partners; disputes comes second with 14 partners; IP is the third largest, consisting of eight partners.
Deacons has long-standing relationships with some of Hong Kong’s largest conglomerates and listed companies and continues to advise them in major transactions and disputes. Recently, it worked on the privatisation of Wheelock and Company, one of Hong Kong’s oldest listed property companies. The Wheelock group and its chairman – Hong Kong billionaire businessman Peter Woo – are among the firm’s important clients. The deal is one of the most sizeable and high-profile privatisations in Hong Kong.
35. Mori Hamada & Matsumoto
Mori Hamada & Matsumoto
Japanese Big Four firm Mori Hamada & Matsumoto saw year-on-year headcount growth across the board over the past year. Qualified lawyer numbers rose by 9 per cent, from 487 to 533, while total staff headcount rose by 6 per cent, from 1,126 to 1,197.
The firm expanded its partnership by 9.4 per cent, up from 128 to 140. The bulk of these came during a round of promotions in January 2020, whereby the firm appointed 11 of its lawyers as partners.
Key mandates for the firm included advising Japanese advertising company Hakuhodo Inc’s acquisition of India’s AdGlobal360 for an undisclosed fee. The firm also counselled Yahoo Japan, subsidiary of SoftBank Corp, during a planned merger with Korean messaging app operator Line Corp.
The firm maintains 11 offices in seven countries, and continues to look at Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia as its key international markets.
28. Rajah & Tann Asia
Rajah & Tann Asia
Rajah & Tann Asia continued its steady development under its renewed regional strategy in 2019. The Singapore-headquartered firm had another year of modest headcount growth, with qualified lawyer numbers up by 5 per cent from 642 to 674. Partner numbers increased by 3.5 per cent, from 226 to 234. Under the leadership of new managing partner Patrick Ang, who took over the helm from Lee Eng Beng in March 2019, the firm achieved good results both in terms of revenue and profit last year.
According to Ang, the firm’s disputes practice experienced an exceptional year both on the litigation and international arbitration front, while a number of significant restructuring projects, such as the $4bn restructuring of Hin Leong Group, continued on from the previous year. Corporate and capital markets work was slow, but the firm secured roles in several high-profile transactions, including the S$1.49bn merger of OUE Commercial REIT and OUE Hospitality Trust. In October, the firm’s Singapore office moved to a 70,000 square feet new premises in Marina One in the Marina South financial district. The move is part of the firm’s transformation strategy that includes investments in digital tools and legal technology and a modern workspace that promotes integration and collaboration.
While the pace of partner hires slowed, Rajah & Tann’s recruitment focus was on central business support functions and junior associates in the past two years to support its growing regional network. In October 2018, it recruited its new COO Collin Liu from Baker McKenzie. In 2019, it also hired a regional business development manager and a regional training development manager from the same global firm. While Singapore remained the largest and strongest fee-generating office, the firm now has more lawyers based outside of Singapore, around 53.4 per cent of its total. Its Jakarta office has been the fast-growing one within its network and become one of the largest firms in Indonesia. Another major focus of the firm’s leadership team was around succession planning. Among members of the new executive committee, two thirds are next generation of equity partners who are primarily in their mid-forties.
Partner numbers at the firm increased by 3.5 per cent, from 226 to 234
The firm’s disputes practice experienced an exceptional year, both on the litigation and international arbitration front